Wargaming the Exploration and Colonisation of Tropical Africa by European powers from 1850 until 1918.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Ngoni standard bearer and witchdoctor

In Chris Peers' Darkest Africa rules the leader in an Ngoni army has to be one of the warriors. The figure on the left, therefore, represents a standard bearer who can cancel out a compulsory morale test.

The witchdoctor can force an opposing unit to take a morale test but is really only effective against other tribal opponents, not white men or Arabs (the latter is not clear from the rules but can be inferred).

Female Tuta archers

The Tuta or Watuta people lived in Northern Tanganyika and were the northernmost of the Ngoni sub groups to have migrated from Southern Africa. They were feared raiders and provided Mirambo with large contingents of warriors. They also fought the Arabs in Tabora but later the Arabs themselves used them as mercenaries. At the end of the nineteenth century they were pacified by the Germans, peacefully, but that doesn't mean we couldn't do a what if scenario.

Both Sir Richard Burton and Grant say that Tuta women fought alongside their men, with Grant specifically mentioning they fought as archers. Whilst there were many examples of West African warrior women it is all a bit more debatable in the East. Both Grant and Burton's accounts were third hand from Arab sources. Nevertheless, I like the idea of a small unit of women archers as a bodyguard so this will make up half of the force of ten I am going to paint. There is only one odd thing about these figures: they have no quivers, so I am not quite sure where they keep their arrows!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Three more figures

I finished three more Darkest Africa figures this weekend. From left to right District Officer Hedley, Lord Greystoke and another Ngoni.

District Officer Hedley is actually a Copplestone Back of Beyond figure but I think he makes a very good fellow to look after a district up the Zambezi somewhere during the later colonial period. You'll find him living in his bungalow overlooking the steamer jetty, listening to Gilbert and Sullivan, hunting anything that moves, drinking gin and being "looked after" by a couple of native girls.

The original Daktari jeep.

District Officer Hedley is, of course a character from the 1960's TV show Daktari which I watched when I was little. It was mostly famous for its character of Clarence the cross-eyed lion and it's zebra striped jeeps, since copied by safari parks all over the world.

Hedley Mattingly.

District Officer Hedley was a minor character who popped up occasionally and was played by a British-born actor called Hedley Mattingly. This was all a source of great amusement in our house as my father's name was Hedley (as indeed is my second name) and it was the only other time that we came across the name (other than in the famous tort court case Hedley Byrne v Heller!).

He is wearing a Brasenose tie, of course.

The Lord of the Jungle figure is another Foundry Darkest Africa figure. I have never been a fan of Tarzan, my Edgar Rice Burroughs phase (when I was about ten) concentrating more on his Mars and Venus series, but in a Pulp Africa, rather than a purely historical one (and my universe contemplates both) then he should appear and, anyway, I have already painted Jane.

Monday, 5 May 2008

More Ruga-Ruga

At last I have managed to finish some figures. A trip to Turkey took out most of my week but over the Bank Holiday I finished these Ruga Ruga, bringing the total to fifteen.

I'm still working on some more Ngoni and a couple of Darkets Africa characters, including Tarzan.

I ordered some more Zanzibaris from Foundry and they arrived whilst I was away. I also got a copy of the Foundry book Armies of East Africa by Chris Peers. Haven't had a proper look at it yet but it looks good.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

More Wildlife from Foundry

Foundry have just released some more African wildlife which is very good news. I have some of their lions but it is nice to have some lionesses as well.


They are a bit Lion King looking but match the lions, I suppose.

Foundry Rhino

The rhino is not as nice as the Copplestone ones (which are still the best wildlife out there) but the baby rhino is a must buy for my daughter!

Copplestone Rhinos

Friday, 21 March 2008

Five more Ruga-ruga

I haven't posted or painted much as I have been ..in Africa! Admittedly not Darkest Africa but North Africa. It was Africa nonetheless!

I started these before I left and finished them today. I attempted to paint a cheetah skin for the first time. It looks OK.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Five more Ngoni

I finished another five Ngoni today. Two of the Ngoni (on the left) have the Zebra mane headresses popular in Southern Tanganyika.

Some of the Ngoni dyed their cocks feather headresses red and the character with the club and red feather headress will be my tribal chief.

I worked on bending the shields with some pliers and they look better than the flat ones I painted last week.

The Ngoni shields were very similar to Zulu ones and so here are some pictures of Zulu shields to show the construction and colouring. The shield is made from cow-hide with its natural colouring.

On the back you can see how the carrying pole was attached. This is an original pole from a Zulu War period shield. Finding these now is quite unusual as those brought back to Britain as souvenirs were usually rolled up and the pole discarded.

The fur decoration seen at the top of Zulu and Ngoni shield poles was usually made from Antelope or Springbok fur and so would have been a light, sandy tan colour.

Monday, 18 February 2008

First Ngoni

I have painted the first of my Copplestone Castings Ngoni. They took longer to paint than Azande warriors but that is becuase their costume is more elaborate. They look very splendid, though, and I have got another five on the go. The shields, in particular took ages!

The shields are the only things I would take issue with as regards accuracy. The figures themselves are very accurate but the shields are modelled as flat. The Ngoni's Zulu-style shields were made from animal hide with a pole threaded into the back to give them rigidity.
Most of the pictures I have seen of them show them as slightly convex with the edge turned up slightly. The Copplestone shields are too thick to bend but I guess it doesn't matter too much as the size and profile is spot on.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


I started a bunch of Ruga-Ruga some years ago but never finished them. I've decided to build a force for the warlord, Mirambo, so I will need a mix of Ngoni, Watuta and Ruga-Ruga. I opened a new pot of varnish for these and, as often with Humbrol varnish, the first coat was very shiny. I tried two more coats but it stayed shiny so I went for another tim which was much better. If there is one thing I hate it's shiny figures!

The bases are pinker than I usually do for hot climate figures because, as Sir Richard Burton said, "Africa is a red land". Actually I looked up some pictures of Tanzania and tried to paint the bases that colour but they looked far too red!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Coming next: Ngoni!

For some reason I have a sudden urge to paint some more African tribesmen and although I should be doing some more Azande, to finally finish off my army, I have a couple of packs of Copplestone Castings Ngoni in the lead pile. So I cleaned them and based them this week and hope to get some done over the next few weeks.

The picture above is from a 1958 postcard showing some Ngoni in their traditional cocksfeather headdresses. It's a good colour reference for the shields too.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Sidi Bombay

" The source of the Nile is that way!"

Here is my Foundry Sidi Bombay figure, which I finished just before Christmas.
Sidi (or Seedy) Mubarak was born in about 1820 and was a member of the Yao tribe (who now live in Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania). At the age of 12 he was captured by Arab slavers and sold to a wealthy Arab merchant in Zanzibar. When the merchant moved to Bombay, Sidi went with him. He was freed in his early thirties when his master died, adopted the surname “Bombay” and returned to Africa. He joined the Sultan of Zanzibar’s army and was posted to Chokwe garrison. It was here that Burton and Speke, setting out on their expedition in 1857, hired Sidi and five other soldiers to protect the group.

Burton had originally appointed a half caste Arab, Said Bin Salim, as head bearer of the expedition but fired him when he discovered he was stealing form the expedition. He replaced him with Sidi Bombay. Burton later said he “worked on principal and worked like a horse..an active servant and an honest man” and we was “the gem of the group” (of bearers).

Sidi (seated) with bearers.

He was a powerful man with sharpened incisors but he spoke Swahili and also Hindustani so he was the only person, other than Burton, that Speke could converse with. He acted as Speke’s gun bearer, lugging two heavy guns with him at all times. Bombay proved to be a tough and resilient figure who became a key member of the expedition although he could be temperamental and his appetite for food became legendary. Speke, in particular, came to rely on him and hired him for his subsequent expedition with Grant where they continued the search for sources of the Nile from 1860 until 1863. Later, he was also hired in 1871 by Stanley during his search for Livingstone and by Cameron in 1873 for his transcontinental trip. He, therefore, had a major role in four of the most important European explorations of Africa. He was given a pension by the Royal Geographical Society in 1878 and died in about 1885.

Sidi and his famous teeth!